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The Beattitudes
January 27, 2019, 12:00 AM

Good Morning, Grace and Peace to you from the Triune God. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

We had the baptism of Jesus a couple of weeks ago and then we saw him fasting and being tempted to give in to the lusts of the flesh. We read that Jesus started his ministry and what we have not read in the interim, is him calling the first disciples. Jesus seems to have gained notoriety quickly and so was ministering to the crowds gathered around, “proclaiming the Kingdom of God and healing the sick.” then in this mornings reading, we see Jesus taking a break and sitting up on a hill with his disciples and he decides to give a teaching to those who have decided to make Jesus their teacher, the disciples. If you like this is Jesus first teaching to the already converted. And so we read,

“Jesus ... went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We at times look upon those who have nothing left to help them but God and feel pity and yet what we are learning here is that if they are a person of faith, then they will have the internal peace and joy knowing that this is not the end of the story. We who are of faith, and is this not what we try to share in evangelism, but we who are of faith, know that the things of this world are but transient. The things of this world are not the ultimate prize. And the support of this world is fine but God will get us through the toughest of times even when the world abandons us. Thus we can have and inner peace and joy, even as we face situations and have no more left than our dependence upon God. 

Jesus goes on saying,  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Is it not the case that we often feel sorry for those who mourn. And yet if they have only trust and dependence on God, it is amazing the losses that people go through and all while having a positive demeanor, all while smiling, all while helping others around them to cope. This is possible for those who know God and are comforted by God in their moment of turmoil and tribulation.

Next we have this little gem, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. This is one of those that some look at and think is impossible and yet I can show you people whose external demeanor and mode of operation evidence their faith. Meek in many ways refers to gentle and that is certainly not the way of the world around us, which often values a good fight. We are taught at times in this society to take what is rightly ours. Meek also refers to humble and how many times has a person in the United States been criticized for being ok with what they have, for not being proud and boastful, or for not expecting the world to recognize them for the awesomeness we see in them. And yet we in the church world recognize the value in this and try to encourage it among others with things like the Good Samaritan Banquet.

Then we have “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, which may be the easiest to accept because we know that seeking for justice and right relationship with God are positives. It can seem though like justice will never be accomplished and we often need to remember words like those of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, who said it is the “long arc of history” which “bends toward justice.” When therefore we find ourselves down and dejected about the causes we feel God is helping us to promote and it seems like nothing will ever change we can take heart knowing the end of the story and that those who keep work for it, will be filled, will know righteousness and justice.

Now we get to one that I think many of us recognize as a positive and yet there is a piece of many of us who wants to go “Yeah, but....” and we are not given that room, that latitude when we read, “Blessed are the merciful. Lets skip that reward question for a minute and recognize that it is easy to say mercy should occur but much harder to make sure mercy happens. What I will say when you struggle with taking the answer, which shows mercy or shows compassion and forgiveness, toward those who we have the right to punish, or when we help the system to show compassion and forgiveness even when it is not required, when we do this it is often because we remember how much we have been shown compassion and forgiveness by God and thus receive the words, “for they will receive mercy.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. I think this may well give us something to strive toward but is far less difficult than much of what we read in this simple statements and is largely a statement of self evident truth, at least to me. And so we move on to “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who help to bring reconciliation between humans because that is the work of God and thus you are acting like and will be know as children of God. This moves beyond those things which are right to do for those who have wronged us. This moves beyond those things which work for improving the relationship between us and others, although certainly those are included as well. This is the ability to operate in the world as an agent who can help others to get along, but also to repair the breach in the fabric of society. We are being encouraged to cultivate the skills necessary to help others to repair the fabric of society. We are being encouraged not only to practice in our own relationships but to learn the skills necessary to help others. This is a tall task but is also one that I have seen many people learn to do. It is totally possible to learn skills which help others to put the relationships around them back together and is not repairing the breach of society a very basic work of God. The evidence of this I believe is partly as simple as looking at what is accomplished when a whole people abide by the ten commandments. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is about the fabric of society and so I want to encourage you today to find ways in which you might become the peacemakers of this world.

Jesus goes on to encourage us that when this work is difficult and when the world works to get us to stop, because it is just silly or when the world starts working actively against us, know that it may simply mean that we are onto and promoting the truth. Jesus says it like this.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The beatitudes are one of the clearest ethical teachings we find from Jesus. These are the things that Jesus thought those who were his followers needed to know to live well. And so I want to encourage you to remember the support you have from God as that will bring you inner peace and joy. I want to encourage you to remember that you are not ever alone as you work to be merciful, to be peacemakers and to be gentle and humble in all you do. These are not the ways of the world around us, but they are the ways that help us to evidence Christ in our lives and these are the ways that God wants the world to be and these are both comfort in times of challenge and challenge in times of plenty. And is that not the God we know and love but the one who comforts us in our time of need and challenges us in our times of plenty. So, go forth from here reflecting the God you know and love, to the world around you.